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BIO507: Seminar on Recent Advances and Current Problems in the Biological Sciences: Search Tips

Fall 2016, S. Scordilis

Search Tips

Searching By Keywords:

Whether you are searching for books in the Five College Library Catalog, or searching for scholarly articles in a library database, 
it pays to be organized as you start your search. Break down searching into a three step process.

 

STEP 1
Write down as much information about your topic as possible. Answer the following questions:

  • What is your topic?
  • What questions do you have?
  • What do you know? What don't you know?

Then, try to summarize what you are looking for in one or two sentences.

EXAMPLE: I would like to learn about the parasites of seals or dolphins, specifically, about diseases that are caused by these organisms, and, perhaps the role of evolution.  

STEP 2
Using the information in Step 1, list the main concepts of your topic.

EXAMPLE: parasites, seals, dolphins, diseases, evolution or coevolution

STEP 3
Now create a list of synonyms of your key concepts. Think broadly, think narrowly! This step is helping you expand your search
by expressing your query in a variety of ways. If you get too many results, then you can work on focusing your search.

host

seal or seals
pinnipeds

dolphin*

marine mammal*

 

 

 

*=wildcard; will find variations in a word. In this case, those after the letter "n." 

 

 

parasite*

nematode*
nematoda
"pseudoterranova decipiens"

 

lice
sucking lice
Echinophthiriidae

 

 


Quotes around a term will search for the exact term.

 

Add other term(s) to further narrow search
 

disease
health

 

evolution*

 

 

 

 

You will use the word lists you developed in Step 3 to create search strategies. Use "OR" between synonyms and "AND" between
concepts. For instance:

(seal OR  seals OR pinniped*AND (parasite* OR lice)  AND (disease) 

Download this worksheet (with bonus search tips!) to help you organize your search strategy.

 Watch video (3 minutes):  Crafting a Savvy Search Strategy (UCLA Library)

Need Help?

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Rocco Piccinino

Contact:
Young Science Library
(413) 585-2951
rpiccini@smith.edu


Or use Ask a Librarian! to access help during Reference Desk hours.